Chevron Pipe Leak in SW PA Bigger Than First Thought

On Dec. 20, Chevron discovered a pipe leak at a well pad in Robinson (Washington County), PA. At the time it was thought perhaps a few barrels of wet gas condensate had leaked into the ground. It now appears it may be closer to 80 barrels, or 4,000 gallons.

A leaking 2-inch pipe carrying oily condensates from a fracking operation at a Chevron-Appalachia Marcellus Shale well in Robinson, Washington County, has become a much bigger problem than the company and state regulators thought when it was discovered 10 weeks ago.

The leak from a faulty pipe joint weld buried 4 feet under the well pad was discovered by the company and reported to the state Department of Environmental Protection on Dec. 20. At the time, Chevron thought it had spilled about two barrels, or about 100 gallons, and told the DEP it was a minor incident and under control.

But the DEP said Chevron now estimates that as much as 80 barrels, or 4,000 gallons, of condensate — also known as "wet gas" — leaked from the pipe between Nov. 8, when the well fracking began, and its discovery 42 days later.

"We’re still in the process of assessing the damage caused by this leak," Trip Oliver, a Chevron spokesman, said Monday. "When you have a leak in an underground condensate line, the assessment is not as simple as if the leak was above ground. We’ve been remediating the site since it was first discovered in December."

John Poister, a DEP spokesman, said the leaking pipe’s location, buried instead of above ground where a leak could have been more quickly discovered and fixed, will be part of the department’s ongoing investigation, which he described as "still in the early stages." No notices of violation have been issued.*

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Feb 28, 2012) – Chevron assessing damage of Washington Co. well leak